Self Esteem Counseling
Almost every counseling situation I have been involved in has had an element of self esteem counseling in it.
What I mean by that is that clients are struggling with a concern that they do not have the tools to handle a particular external sitution, and for those folks, self esteem counseling begins with teaching them first where their reality exists, which is inside their heads, in the interpretations and feelings generated after sensory perceptions.
For those already aware of their feelings and cognitions, I begin to teach a model which allows them to challenge their thoughts.
I usually start by asking them to imagine the best possible outcome, and stating their feelings as they imagine that outcome.
And then I tell them to change that thought to the worst possible outcome, and again state their feelings, and clients usually begin to get a glimmer that thoughts bring feelings, and those thoughts exist inside themselves only, since they are in my office and not actively engaged in any activity related to the problem.
So now we are stearing ourselves down the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) path which involves challenging thoughts,particularly automatic negative thoughts.
But What is Self Esteem?
From the ERIC Digest.
"WHAT IS SELF-ESTEEM?
Definitions of self-esteem vary considerably in both their breadth and psychological sophistication. From an intuitive sense we know that high self-esteem means that we appreciate ourselves and our inherent worth. More specifically, it means we have a positive attitude, we evaluate ourselves highly, we are convinced of our own abilities and we see ourselves as competent and powerful-in control of our own lives and able to do what we want. In addition, we compare ourselves favorably with others. We also know what it means to experience diminished self-esteem--self-depreciation, helplessness, powerlessness and depression (Mecca, Smelser & Vasconcellos, 1989).
It also may help us in better understanding self-esteem to differentiate self-concept from self-esteem. Self-concept is the totality of a complex, organized and dynamic system of learned beliefs, attitudes and opinions that each person holds to be true about his or her personal existence (Purkey, 1988). Self-esteem is focused upon feelings of personal worth and the level of satisfaction regarding one's self. Another approach to defining self-esteem is to identify the almost universally accepted components of self-esteem. They are: (1) a cognitive element, or the characterizing of self in descriptive terms, e.g., power, confidence; (2) an affective element or a degree of positiveness or negativeness, e.g., high or low self-esteem; and (3) an evaluative element related to some ideal standard, e.g., what a high school graduate should be able to do (Mecca, Smelser & Vasconcellos, 1989).
Nathaniel Branden provides a particularly compelling view of self-esteem (Branden, 1990). He sees it as having two interrelated aspects: a sense of personal efficacy (self-efficacy) or confidence in a person's ability to think and act; and a sense of personal worth (self-respect) or an affirmative attitude towards a person's right to live and to be happy. In the most succinct terms, self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the challenges of life and to be deserving of happiness."
What is Next?
I think it is particularly important in self esteem counseling, or in counseling situation, for the counselor to convey a confidence that the client has all the tools necessary to succeed with their issue.
There are times when I even demand that they be successful. I know it is possible because I have seen folks come back from the gates of hell in the addictions field, and move into entirely new lives of quiet competance.
One of the tools I have used over the years to demonstrate to clients that they have much greater abilities to manage things that they didn't know they could manage is Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback.
Clients quickly learn (usually within five hours or ten practices) that they can manage the time between heart beats and they can do it anytime and it feels good. However, to sustain heart rate variability coherence means a new level of attention to the inside of their body, to their feelings and their thoughts.
So then we need to generalize that learning to sustaining a coherent heart beat in personal and professional relationships.
Clients begin to understand that all relationships have a heart beat and that they can bring their good steady coherent heart beat to the relationship, and invite the other folks involved to bring a coherent heart beat also.
Clients will experience moments of incoherence in any activity, but learn to recognize they can simply return to coherence by quickly attending to thinking and breathing patterns, and from a coherent heart rate variability coherence they actually open the higher perceptual centers of the brain for better decision making.
Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback has elements of mindfulness and CBT built in, by the way.
So the client now knows that they have the ability to feel contentment and problem solve from the most effective part of their problem solving brain heart beat by heart beat, and they know that should they become incoherent, they can switch back to coherence without any external tool, simply by regulating breathing and thoughts, and that skill is usually followed by a renewed sense of competance to "cope with the challenges of life and to be deserving of happiness."
Is Their More?
As if that learning Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback wasn't enough, I help clients to understand that they are on their way to establishing a brain fit way of life, when they use Heartmath.
I always enjoy telling clients about recent neuroscientific discoveries about neurogenesis and neuroplasticity and the role that Heartmath heart rate variability plays in that.
Clients are almost curious about growing new neurons, which is called neurogenesis, and they are delighted with the idea of neuroplasticity, which is the new connections those new neurons make when they are stimulated by novel learning experiences.
If fact, I recommend the e-book, Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who give us an excellent overview of the concept of brain fitness and how to get more of it.
Hint-You do not have to become a college professor to have brain fitness, but you do need to attend to the pillars of brain fitness daily.
And if you are really ambitious give the computerized brain fitness programs below a try. Well worth the effort.
Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.